Emergency medical technicians, firefighters and police help rescue a woman from a vehicle that went off the road near Rangeline Road in Menominee Township in 2011. This week is National EMS Week and it honors those who provide emergency medical care. EagleHerald photo/Rick Gebhard
Emergency medical technicians, firefighters and police help rescue a woman from a vehicle that went off the road near Rangeline Road in Menominee Township in 2011. This week is National EMS Week and it honors those who provide emergency medical care. EagleHerald photo/Rick Gebhard
The call comes into a 911 dispatch center in Menominee or Marinette County. Seconds later, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, firefighters or law enforcement officers are on their way to the scene.

It could be an accident on the highway, a person having a heart attack or someone working with power tools that went out of control.

But because of the teams of trained volunteers and professionals with the skills and tools needed to save lives, many recover from these frightening and often life-threatening events.

Emergency Medical Services providers are the day-to-day heroes saving lives of your family members, friends and neighbors. Often, they are those same people - but they wear the added hats of EMTs, paramedics, nurses, physicians and First Responders.

This week is National EMS Week, and across the country, departments large and small are being honored for doing what comes naturally to most of their members - giving of themselves to help others in their communities.

Marinette and Menominee counties, with their vast arteries of roads and highways, are predominately rural. While the area is fortunate to have a hospital with an emergency department and 24-hour paramedic services, they could never adequately cover the length and breadth of both large counties without the help of the volunteer rescue squads and first responders.

One Mission. One Team.

That is the theme of this week's national celebration. Just four words define what happens in our communities and so many others every day.

"We all work together," said Mike Orlando, a critical care paramedic, who is serving as interim manager of Bay Area Medical Center's paramedic team.

In the cities of Menominee and Marinette, both BAMC paramedics and members of the all-volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad Inc. co-respond to 911 calls. BAMC paramedics have two teams available 24/7, he said. During the day, up to 11 p.m., both two-person ambulances are working, but between 11 and 9:30 a.m., one of the units will leave the hospital and go on-call. If the first unit is called out for any reason, the second unit will come back to the hospital, Orlando said.

Often, when the calls are in the northern part of Menominee, the ERS quick response vehicle will be there before the paramedics. At the scene, no matter where it is, there are often police or sheriff's department officers, and firefighters.

There is a chain of command, and the command is determined by priorities.

"If it's a medical issue, they'll defer to the paramedics," Orlando said of BAMC, which provides medical control for all of the ambulance services it works with. "The police or fire departments might take over if it's an issue of scene safety (like a possible fire). Everybody works well together - we're literally on the same page."

"We're trained to do what comes from the people directing us," said Dennis Rye, president of Mid-County Rescue Squad out of Stephenson.

Rye said the Mid-County team is comprised of people from all walks of life, "school teachers, company owners, just people who are willing to give up their time to do this. First of all, they are people who care about their community and want to help others."

Rye said the communities show their support in helping fund the volunteer programs, since there is significant cost for equipment, training and supplies.

"Each township (we serve) gives us an amount," he said. "With some, it's a little; with some, it's a lot. We put out a request every other year and they give what they can."

The rescue squad also holds fundraising events in order to keep their ambulance on the road and supplies in the back.

"While we set aside money in the budget every year for vehicle replacement, there are ongoing needs," he said. "Every time we use medical supplies on a run, we have to replace what we used."

Orlando said that many patients are directly transported by the various rescue squads in the area to hospitals in Delta County, Dickinson County and BAMC in Marinette.

BAMC paramedics provide ambulance intercepts, where the paramedics trained in advance life support and critical care meet with a rescue squad ambulance en route to BAMC.

It gives the patient a medical advantage, since the rescue squad EMTs have already assessed their needs and started care, allowing BAMC paramedics to start some procedures as well as coordinate immediate care at the hospital.

"We can run EKGs, call the cath lab or even have them hold a spot for a CT scan," Orlando said.

At scenes where multiple responders are present, the paramedics and EMTs will often overlap care, especially when there are multiple victims.

Orlando said that there are times when a squad's EMTs are called upon to jump in the BAMC rig to provide an extra set of hands or tapped to drive the ambulance to allow two paramedics to work in the back.

"Sometimes calls are misleading," Orlando said, adding that instead of one injured person, there are several. "Then, everyone works at once, and everyone works together."

BAMC works with several different rescue squad departments, including Mid-County, Coleman, Crivitz, the Emergency Rescue Squad in Marinette, Menominee and Peshtigo; Pembine-Dunbar-Beecher; Silver Cliff; Twin Bridge; and Wausaukee.

In addition, there are First Responders with Marinette City Fire Department, and many of the area's law enforcement officers carry AEDs (automatic external defibrillators).

There also are rescue squads in Hermansville and Faithorn, said Rye, but they face the same staffing problems many of the other rural squads do.

"We're down on medical people, but we have extrication people and drivers," he said of the squad's 35 members. "We're finding people are less interested in volunteering. Faithorn has three or four people, but they're not on at night. They've just run out of people."

Rye said that many young people move out of the area or have families and jobs that make it hard for them to commit to the time and training.

EMTs and First Responders have to attend classes at local technical schools and occasionally, in-house, to receive certification, but then are required to earn continuing education credits to keep their licenses active.

Training and education play a major role in maintaining and growing BAMC's paramedic program, Orlando said.

"We are going through critical care training right now," he said, explaining that while some of the 21 paramedics and seven EMTs at BAMC are in training, others are taking their shifts. "It's meant a lot of hours for those still working."

Being able to provide critical care in the ambulance expedites transport of seriously ill patients to hospitals in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison, he said. Now, patients can be transported without waiting for some procedures to end or be stopped, such as blood transfusions.

"It's a higher level of care," Orlando said. "Now instead of stopping procedures, it allows us to do that, and get the patients to the specialized care they need."